Alarm Fatigue

Hospitals are overwhelmed with alarms, and it’s a problem with severe consequences:

Current clinical alarm technology is generally based on Data Threshold Science, which detects when a specific data threshold has been crossed and activates an alerting mechanism (usually an audible alarm). Unfortunately, this creates a concept known as “alarm fatigue,” which has truly frightening consequences when encountered in complex clinical environments. In such environments, critical alarms are often either ignored or even turned off. (html)

The results, predictably, are injury and death.

Some causes of alarm fatigue include:

  • False Alarms, which “cry wolf” and add noise to the system.
  • Notification Wars, where every device must compete with the others for competition.
  • The sheer number of alarm conditions. In an ICU the average number of alarm conditions per day for a single bed was 771.

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Tea Kettle Tech minimizes alarms by only giving alerts when action is required.

In Sonification data is converted to an “auditory display” which can reduce fatigue.

A note about Alarms in Chemotherapy Centers

Alarm Fatigue is an issue in Normal Accident Theory.

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